The Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur erupted with fireworks last night moments after Rajshahi Royals skipper Andre Russell erupted with a roar. He had bowled the last ball of the match, and in the process ensured that he became the first foreign captain to get his hands on a Bangladesh Premier League trophy in the tournament’s seventh edition.
In a pulsating final of the special edition of the tournament, named the Bangabandhu BPL to commemorate the birth centenary of father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Rajshahi beat Khulna Tigers by 21 runs to win their first BPL trophy. Russell, who had single-handedly carried the team to the final with a 22-ball 54 against Chattogram Challengers in the second qualifier on Wednesday, was adjudged the player-of-the-match. The West Indian hit a muscular 16-ball 27 to help lift the total to 170 for four, before taking two wickets for 32 runs – including the prize scalp of Khulna skipper Mushfiqur Rahim – to help restrict Khulna to 149 for eight.
Khulna started badly in chase of the challenging total, losing both openers inside two overs after adding just 11 runs. Khulna’s resurgence was then ensured by Shamsur Rahman and Rilee Rossouw. The duo strung together a crucial 74-run third-wicket stand before Rossouw was dismissed in the 11th over, leaving Khulna at 85 for three.
The chase lost steam once again after Shamsur fell to a Kamrul Islam delivery in the 14th over after scoring a valiant 52 off 43 balls, which included four boundaries and two maximums.
However, as long as Mushfiqur was at the wicket, Khulna had a chance. That is why Russell celebrated with vigour when he bowled his opposite number with an inch-perfect yorker in the 18th over to cut Khulna down to 134 for six.
Rajshahi pacer Mohammad Irfan also bowled brilliantly, allowing just 18 runs from his four over while taking two wickets. He ensured that there would not be any late surge from Khulna by conceding just one run from the 19th over and picking up the wicket of Robbie Frylinck.
Earlier, Irfan Sukkur’s only fifty of the tournament could not have come at a better time for Rajshahi Roayls. The left-hander’s 35-ball 52, complemented by unbeaten quickfire knocks from skipper Andre Russell and Mohammad Nawaz at the death, saw Rajshahi post a challenging 170 for four.
After being asked to bat, Rajshahi lost in-form opener Afif Hossain in the third over. Although Liton Das played a 28-ball 25-run knock and Irfan contributed with a blazing fifty, Rajshahi were in a spot of bother at one stage at 99 for four after 14.2.
Had it not been for the late surge from Russell and Nawaz, Rajshahi may not have seen a challenging total on the board. Nawaz struck an unbeaten 20-ball 41, laced with six fours and two maximums, while Russell, who played a match-winning knock in the second qualifier against Chattogram Challengers, remained unbeaten for a 16-ball 27.